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Dietary Guidelines by Age

No matter who you are, where you live or what stage of life you are in, food is essential. Food is the fuel that helps children’s brains and bodies develop to reach their greatest physical and physiological potential!

It is every parent’s wish for their child to thrive, and one of the greatest ways you can support that wish is through good nutrition. Nutrition in its simplest form is taking in and utilizing food for growth and health. Finding the balance between what to feed your child and how much to feed him can feel tricky, but following certain age-by-age dietary guidelines can help. Find the life stage of your child below to learn more about their specific dietary needs. 

Remember: It’s never too late to start learning about your child’s dietary needs and implement change. Every bite and sip counts! 

Birth to 6 Months 

For about the first 6 months of life, exclusive breastfeeding is recommended.

When breastfeeding is not possible, provide infants with iron-fortified infant formula during the first year of life. Most formulas sold in the U.S. contain iron. Iron-fortified formula supports optimal growth for babies.

Age (months)Daily FeedingsFormula per Feeding (mL)Total Daily Formula
0-16-1060-120550-700
1-26-10 60-120 650-850
2-36-10 60-120 700-950
4-66-7150-180750-1,350

How do I know if my baby is getting enough to eat? 

  • Your baby has at least six wet diapers and three or more dirty diapers a day. 
  • You can see milk leaking or dripping while feeding. 
  • Your baby is gaining weight. 

If you are concerned your baby is not eating enough, talk with your pediatrician. 

6 to 12 Months 

At about 6 months, introduce infants to nutrient-dense complementary foods. 

It is recommended that iron-fortified rice cereal be the first complementary food introduced to an infant. Other appropriate “first foods” include soft, easy-to-digest foods, such as: 

  • unsweetened full-fat yogurt 
  • cooked, pureed fruits and vegetables 
  • cooked cereal grains. 
Age (months)Daily FeedingsFormula per Feeding (mL)Complementary Food Feedings per Day
6-84-5700-9502-3
9-123-5500-9503-4

1 Year 

Between 12 and 18 months, children can be completely weaned off bottles.

Weaning is the discontinuation of bottle-feeding by replacing infant formula with food. Weaning is a gradual process that is complete when the child is consuming the calories they need from foods and beverages instead of formula. Typically developing children are ready to be weaned from bottles when they: 

  • can sit up by themselves 
  • can eat from a spoon 
  • start showing interest in solid foods. 

2 Through 4 Years 

Females require about 1,000 to 1,400 calories per day.  

This looks like: 

  • 1 to 1 ½ cups of vegetables per day  
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups of fruit per day 
  • 1 ½ to 2 ½ ounces of whole grains and 1 ½ to 2 ½ ounces of refined grains per day 
  • 2 to 2 ½ cups of dairy per day 
  • 2 to 4 ounces of protein foods per day  
  • 15 to 17 grams of oils per day                                                          

Males require about 1,000 to 1,600 calories per day.  

This looks like: 

  • 1 to 2 cups of vegetables per day  
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups of fruit per day 
  • 1 ½ to 3 ounces of whole grains and 1 ½ to 2 ounces of refined grains per day 
  • 2 to 2 ½ cups of dairy per day 
  • 2 to 4 ounces of protein foods per day  
  • 15 to 22 grams of oils per day 

TIP: Vary veggie choices to include dark green veggies, red and orange veggies, beans, peas, lentils and starches. 

5 Through 8 Years 

Females require about 1,200 to 1,800 calories per day.  

This looks like: 

  • 1 ½ to 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day  
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups of fruit per day 
  • 2 to 3 ounces of whole grains and 2 to 3 ounces of refined grains per day 
  • 2 ½ cups of dairy per day 
  • 3 to 5 ounces of protein foods per day  
  • 17 to 22 grams of oils per day 

Males require about 1,200 to 2,000 calories per day. 

This looks like: 

  • 1 ½ to 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day  
  • 1 to 2 cups of fruit per day 
  • 2 to 3 ounces of whole grains and 2 to 3 ounces of refined grains per day 
  • 2 ½ cups of dairy per day 
  • 3 to 5 ½ ounces of protein foods per day  
  • 17 to 24 grams of oils per day 
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Check out additional parenting resources!

View our expanded list of recommended parenting websites, books and other resources organized by topic.

9 Through 13 Years 

Females require about 1,400 to 2,200 calories per day.  

This looks like: 

  • 1 ½ to 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day  
  • 1 to 2 cups of fruit per day 
  • 2 ½ to 3 ounces of whole grains and 2 ½ to 3 ounces of refined grains per day 
  • 3 cups of dairy per day 
  • 4 to 5 ½ ounces of protein foods per day  
  • 17 to 27 grams of oils per day 

Males require about 1,600 to 2,600 calories per day. 

This looks like: 

  • 2 to 3 ½ cups of vegetables per day  
  • 1 to 2 cups of fruit per day 
  • 3 to 4 ½ ounces of whole grains and 3 to 4 ½ ounces of refined grains per day 
  • 3 cups of dairy per day 
  • 5 to 6 ½ ounces of protein foods per day  
  • 22 to 34 grams of oils per day 

TIP: Vary protein sources to include meats, poultry, eggs, seafood, nuts, seeds and soy products. 

14 Through 18 Years 

Females require about 1,800 to 2,400 calories per day.  

This looks like: 

  • 2 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables per day  
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit per day 
  • 3 to 4 ounces of whole grains and 3 to 4 ounces of refined grains per day 
  • 3 cups of dairy per day 
  • 5 to 6 ½ ounces of protein foods per day  
  • 22 to 31 grams of oils per day 

Males require about 2,000 to 3,200 calories per day. 

This looks like: 

  • 2 ½ to 4 cups of vegetables per day  
  • 2 to 2 ½ cups of fruit per day 
  • 3 to 5 ounces of whole grains and 3 to 5 ounces of refined grains per day 
  • 3 cups of dairy per day 
  • 5 to 7 ounces of protein foods per day  
  • 22 to 51 grams of oils per day 
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